Now it appears that the White House’s ace in the hole is actually a joker. News organizations have tied the dismissal of Inspector General Gerald Walpin to a flap over Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s misuse of AmeriCorps funds. The acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento, Lawrence G. Brown, filed a complaint against Mr. Walpin involving that same investigation. The White House seems to think the U.S. attorney’s complaint makes Mr. Walpin look bad and thus excuses the firing.
One major problem: the U.S. attorney’s complaint has more holes in it than a 10-year-old sock.
The complaint claims that the inspector general repeatedly failed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office and improperly used press releases to try the case against Mayor Johnson through the media. Mr. Johnson is a political ally of Mr. Obama’s and reportedly a personal friend of first lady Michelle Obama. In an 18-page response co-signed by five members of the inspector-general staff, Mr. Walpin made mincemeat of Mr. Brown’s complaint.
Consider one of Mr. Brown’s examples of Mr. Walpin’s supposed lack of professionalism, which is hardly the most substantive of grievances. “Not only was it extremely questionable for Mr. Walpin to issue a press release,” the acting U.S. attorney wrote about a Sept. 25, 2008, release, “it contained statements such as: ‘If we find really egregious stuff and we want to stop the bleeding, we seek immediate suspension.’ ”
Mr. Walpin’s press release did not use the words “egregious” and “stuff” or the phrase “stop the bleeding.” That grievance was entirely contrived.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office claims it only learned of developments in the investigation through news articles inspired by the inspector general. That’s odd. The U.S. Attorney’s Office actually submitted, as requested by Mr. Walpin’s team, a letter necessary for the action against Mayor Johnson. So that claim is false, too.
The rest of Mr. Brown’s grievances are equally niggling.
What remains is that the president fired an independent, apolitical inspector general in response to his filing accurate reports that embarrassed President Obama’s allies. Mr. Walpin, a 77-year-old former federal prosecutor with a sterling reputation, sounded baffled when we spoke to him on Saturday.
“I would never have given a thought to the possibility that a president would interfere with the independent reporting by an inspector general by seeking to terminate him. That is so contrary to the purpose of the Inspectors General [Reform] Act that I thought there was no way in any realistic sense that could happen,” he told The Washington Times.
Mr. Obama was a co-sponsor of that IG reform act when he was in the Senate. But that was then; this is now. Today, the independence of government inspectors seems to matter less than giving cover to the president’s political pals.